May 19, 2022

The “Weakness” Interview Question, and What Your Answer Says About You


What’s your weakness? Your clever, well-practiced answer to the weakness interview question may send a message you did not intend.

The “Wish-I-Were” Answer

This answer is often offered in response to the more tactful version of the weakness question: “What’s an area in which you or your manager think you need to work on?”

If you say this:

I do not have very advanced skills in (whatever). I’d like to be able to (do better). ”

the interviewer may hear this:

“I do not have very advanced skills and I’d like to do better, but I have no plan to address that; I’m just going to wish-I-were. ”

The “I’m Too Good” Answer

If you say this:

“I am a perfectionist. This can be difficult, for example because it causes me to take a lot of time getting things just right, it’s important to me to deliver consistently high-quality work. ”

the interviewer may hear this:

“I’m not comfortable discussing my weaknesses. I may not even allow myself to be aware of them. Consequently, I may become defensive when given constructive feedback at work. ”

The “Funny” Answer

If you say this:

“My weakness is chocolate / keeping my shoes tied / identifying a weakness.”

the interviewer may hear this:

“I’m not willing to discuss my weaknesses — and I’m a smart aleck!”

Effective Answers to the Weakness Interview Question

The best interview answers are both authentic and strategic, and this is especially true in answering “weakness” questions. To be authentic, decide on an answer that’s real. To keep it strategic, use your answer to demonstrate that you are self-aware, humble, energetic in improving your skills and growing as a professional — and that your weakness will not be a problem.

With this in mind, one approach is to discuss a weakness that’s not crucial to the job, yet isn’t totally irrelevant either. For example, many jobs involve administrative tasks that are required but are low-priority. If you honestly have this weakness, and it’s not too extreme, you might say that you’ve sometimes been late in filling out required forms, but that out of consideration for your manager you’ve built better habits and your paperwork has been about 99 % on time ever since.

Notice that I said “if you honestly have this weakness.” An insincere answer is not a safe answer, because the interviewer is likely to sense that you’re hiding something.

A slightly more risky approach – yet more authentic and potentially more effective — might be to mention a somewhat more important (but still not deal-breaking) weakness that you are actively and successfully addressing. For example:

“I’m very results-oriented, and I realized a while back that I was not paying enough attention to building relationships. I read a great book called Making Relationships Work at Work and I’m following the suggestions in it. For example, I’m letting my personality show more – I put up some posters and decorations in my office that team members can see during conference calls, which has helped start conversations and made us aware of interests we have in common. I’m also making a point of sending appreciative messages to thank or compliment co-workers. And I’ve been talking to my manager about all this to get her perspectives. The other day she shared a comment she’d heard, that someone said I was a good influence on the team culture. ”

For more tips on answering this type of question, read my post, “Interview Question: What Are Your Weaknesses?”

Now that you know how to answer the “weakness” interview question, read my post, “Is the ‘Greatest Strengths’ Interview Question Easy?”



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